Development of local connections in ferret somatosensory cortex

Sharon L. Juliano, Sidney L. Palmer, Ramana V. Sonty, Stephen C Noctor, Glenwood F. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Ferrets have become recognized as a useful and interesting model for study of neocortical development. Because of their immaturity at birth, it is possible to study very early events in the ontogeny of the brain. We used living slices of ferret somatosensory cortex to study the formation and development of intrinsic elements within the neocortex. A small number of fixed, hemisected brains injected with 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'- tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI) were also used. The slices were obtained from ferret kits aged postnatal day (P)1 to P62 and maintained in a chamber; each slice received injections of fluorescent-labeled dextrans. The injections were made at different ages in several distinct sites, which included the proliferative ventricular zone, the intervening white matter (or intermediate zone), and different sites of developing cortex, including the deeper cortical plate, which incorporated the subplate in young animals, and more superficial cortical sites, depending on the age of the animal. Several animals also received injections into the ventrobasal thalamus. Injections into young animals (P1-7) produced a dominant radial pattern that extended from the ventricular zone into the cortex. Injections into the ventricular zone labeled many cells that appeared morphologically like radial glia as well as presumptive neurons. Although the predominant pattern was radial, injections in the ventricular zone often produced tangentially oriented cells and horizontally arranged fibers at the outer edge of the proliferative zone. These cells and fibers may provide a substrate for tangential dispersion of neurons within the neocortex. More superficial injections within the slice labeled lines of cells that appeared to be stacked upon one another in a radial pile in the cortex; the cortical plate received very few lateral projections. Data obtained from more mature slices indicated that, although the overall pattern of staining remained radial, the precise character of the pattern changed to include more lateral spread into surrounding cortex, which eventually refined and developed into distinct patches by P28, when the overall cortical architecture appeared adult like. The data involving thalamocortical connections were more limited, but they indicated that the thalamus projects precisely to the somatosensory cortex in a point-to-point fashion from the earliest date studied (P0) and that the ventrobasal nucleus terminates upon the somatosensory cortex in a patchy manner during the early postnatal days of development. This study of the development of the somatosensory cortex confirms the ubiquitous nature of column-like connections throughout the neocortex and provides a novel view of the radial nature of early neocortical maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-277
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 14 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • cortical column
  • cortical slice
  • neuronal migration
  • radial glia
  • ventricular zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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